Featured Fitz’s Ancient Book Review

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Nov 6, 2019.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Like my thread on Medieval Books, I thought I might try to keep track of my thoughts on the various books on Ancient coins I have read. While these are not as numerous as the Medieval books, I would be happy for others to chime in (as they have done on the medieval book review post). I would just ask that we try to keep things to a similar format for consistency.

    Clare Rowan, From Caesar to Augustus (c. 49 BC-AD 14): Using Coins as Sources. Guides to the Coinage of the Ancient World. Series EditorAndrew Meadows. Cambridge: University Press, 2019.
    ISBN: 978-1107675698
    Cost: $24.99


    Grade: A

    This book is a little gem on the historical background of many coins issued during the intriguing years between the rise of Julius Caesar and the reign of Augustus. Clare Rowan clearly explains how the various coins issued during this time of transition were used as a method of spreading messages and communicating with the Roman people. One of the strengths of the text is that Rowan provides a clear image of most of the coins she discusses, and those which are not pictured are referenced to their Crawford, RIC, or RPC number (complete with URL addresses for online versions of Crawford and RIC hosted by the ANS). The text is easily approachable, and it is also affordable!

    The purpose of the book is to act as a guide for Scholars of the late republic/early empire to utilize coins as evidence, and to be able to understand the symbolism and historical context of many of these coins. Rowan includes the basics, such as how coins were produced, and how they were used in daily life, but does not belabor these points to where they might be viewed as tedious to someone more accustomed to numismatic research. The appendixes contain a glossary of numismatic terms, Latin abbreviations, and explanation of both Greek and Roman denominations, and a timeline of events. The book is a handy guide for doing exactly what the subtitle states it is: using coins as sources. It assumes the reader is already familiar with the events that took place.

    While I highly recommend the book, I do have some slight criticisms. The text is sometimes conversational in tone; particularly in the first chapter. This clears up and becomes more formal later in the book, but this could be just a personal preference. Along the same lines, I find the MLA citation style annoying, but again, this is personal preference. Perhaps more concerning is that the images of the coins are all said to be 2x their actual size to allow for better visuals of the coins. This is nice, but no mention of the actual size of the coins is given (excepting provincial bronze coins where the denomination is unknown). Likewise, the weight of the coins pictured is not given. Perhaps this is because the specific coins shown are only meant to be representational of the type, and as we know weights on ancient coins aren’t necessarily consistent. The book also seemed to end abruptly with no real conclusion.

    While I may have a few criticisms, they are very minor. The book is an excellent little window into the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Roman coins, or Roman history.
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  3. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    I have this book and recommend it wholeheartedly. Thanks for the excellent review. I prefer APA to MLA, but as you say that is a personal preference. I do not mind the style. I find that the conversational tone can draw you in to become more involved with the text. As an academic I have read far too many papers and books that were deliberately formal and yet were still poorly written. At least this one involves the use of considerable skill with the written language. Speaking as a coin geek I would have liked the size and weight of the coins pictured, but I really appreciate the detail and historical perspective given for each coin discussed.

    The book has a few quirks but it is an excellent read. I hope to use examples from it in an upcoming lecture.

    Thanks again for the review.
  4. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Thanks for the review!! Sounds like I'd enjoy this book very much. After having written this post, I'd be curious to know what she says about the Caesar elephant...
  5. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    She certainly puts the issue within its context, but dodges the issue of the snake.
    Orfew and Severus Alexander like this.
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